Learning tips: Learning Chinese characters

maghanish2

Senior Member
United States - English
Hello everyone!

I am very interested in learning Chinese. However, I don't want to just start off with the grammar and learning all the rules of the language. First, I would like to become familiar with writing and pronouncing many of the symbols of Chinese.

What I am looking for is a website that provides, for example, one new Chinese word per day, with the symbol and how to say it. Preferably, I would like an animated picture of how to write the symbol (stroke order).

If anyone knows about a site like this, it would be greatly appreciated! I very much want to learn this amazing language!
 
  • kastner

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Wu dialect
    You might want to start off with pinyin and its rules first.
    http://hua.umf.maine.edu/Chinese/topics/pinyin/pinyin.html

    And, sorry if I'm discouraging you, but one character a day will probably take you something like 9 or 10 years to learn all the common characters.

    Well, I'll say the KEY is not "How many characters have I acquired?", should be "How many words/phrases can I understand after having learned 1000-2000 characters?"

    Trust me, it will take much time to collocate different characters than to recognize/read them.
     

    maghanish2

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    Thank you for the responses! And yes, I realize that it will probably take a long time to learn all the common characters if I do one a day. But I was just thinking that as I start to learn and get used to writing the characters, I should only do maybe one a day, and then when I get more comfortable, do maybe 5-6 a day or something. But is there any site that you know of that would demonstrate the stroke order maybe!?
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    You can find some great free online lesson from our Resource Sticky. :) You would probably be interested in the websites listed under Stroke Order (writing):
    http://www.usc.edu/dept/ealc/chinese/character/ - animated characters, simplified and traditional. With Pinyin, Realplayer audio files and definitions in English.
    http://www.liwin.com/calligraphy/ - animated characters, simplified and traditional (based on the Practical Chinese Reader series).
    With Pinyin, Quicktime audio files and definitions in English.
    http://www.hanyu.com.cn/en/htm_chinese/01.htm - animated characters, simplified. With Pinyin and audio files.
     

    aussie89

    New Member
    Italian-Italy
    Hi all!
    I'm learning chinese since four months, I have two questions! I would like to ask if do you know a good website where I can find chinese grammar with a lot of exercises, and where I can do exercise with characters;The second question I have is: In your opinion which is the best way to learn chinese characters?
    Talk to you soon!
    Bye bye
     

    Humberto Duan

    New Member
    Chinese
    I'm a chinese,I can't tell you a website of chinese grammar because I never use it. But I think the best way to learn chinese characters is to communicate with chinese people, it's better to stay in China, of course.
     

    BorisDtt

    Member
    Cantonese
    Hi all!
    I'm learning chinese since four months, I have two questions! I would like to ask if do you know a good website where I can find chinese grammar with a lot of exercises, and where I can do exercise with characters;The second question I have is: In your opinion which is the best way to learn chinese characters?
    Talk to you soon!
    Bye bye

    Chinese characters are usually constructed by two part: one is a semantic(radicals) symbol and the other one is a phonetic symbol. It is suggested that you should firstly learn the radicals of Chinese characters before you move on.

    Humberto Duan is right. I think reading grammar books and doing exercises is not a good idea for beginners. What Chinese grammar experts normally do, is to make the grammar even hard to understand. To get off to a good start, You may learn Chinese characters from the books that contains some useful daily expressions and survival phrases.
     
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    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    In your opinion which is the best way to learn chinese characters?
    Talk to you soon!
    Bye bye

    The time honored way - both for Chinese children and for foreigners - is to start off learning the simplest characters, particularly the ones that are radicals. When you can get the balance on these right, the more complicated ones will follow. The problem with this approach is that sometimes the simplest characters are not the commonest ones, and as a result you start off learning characters that you won't use much initially.

    Knowing stroke order is imperative to a well-balanced hand, and study materials that show stroke order are useful. You may want to check out http://www.nciku.com/ to see how characters are composed.
     

    viajero_canjeado

    Senior Member
    English - Southeastern USA
    I've been trying to learn a set number of characters per day on practice sheets that I guess are commonly used by students in Taiwan, where I started learning Chinese. You could easily make your own practice sheets: they're just columns of boxes (basically a gridlike pattern of squares), and in each column I will practice a single character, annotating the definition and pronunciation at the top and repeating it to myself as I write it over and over, also thinking about how the radicals contribute to the sound or meaning of the character. I normally write each character about 120 times or so. Usually I don't have to go through this process more than once per character, but sometimes I do it twice or even three times until I get it (especially for obscure characters I don't encounter a lot during reading). To ensure you've at least gotten the seed planted in your brain, you should be able to recall the pronunciation (including the tone) and at least a shadow of the character's meaning when reading Chinese later, be it a newspaper, children's book, or whatever. I like practicing with a bilingual Bible, cause the translation's right there and it's a text I'm familiar with, so that helps with contextualizing the Chinese characters without frequently consulting the English.

    ...Anyway, maybe you could also find a buddy to chat with online; that would help your reading comprehension and expression skills (especially if they'll correct you). But of course, the most optimal situation would be for you to live awhile where Chinese is spoken all around you at all times.

    Lastly, the dictionary at mdbg.net has proven indispensable for me. Don't take offense WR! I still love the forums, 嘻嘻..
     
    Hi aussie89,

    In HK elementary school, we have to practice writing Chinese characters like viajero mentioned. The teacher designated a set of words, and we have to keep writing on a box sheet until there's no more space. Also, dictation is very useful in testing your Chinese Characters. Either have somebody read out a paragraph or memorize it, then right it on a piece of paper. Getting a dictionary that shows you the order of each stroke is good too. As mentioned, learning strokes and radicals are essential, but I assume you know that since you've already learned it for 4 months

    As for grammar, I think it is necessary for foreigners who couldn't do immersion to study grammar in order to learn a language. However, I can't give you any good resources since I'm native Chinese.
     

    Chinoise

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I agree with viajero_canjeado's suggestion. That's how I learned too.

    The "practice sheet" can be easily done on MS Excel, not sure where you are in your level of Chinese, but I remember I started out with the simple characters like "big", "small", "people", "female", mixed with some characters that are a bit more complicated such as "I", "you", "he", "she"...etc.

    The bilingual bible is a good idea too, especially it's stories that you've learned by heart.
     

    hebe_o17

    New Member
    Bicol-Naga Dialect, Filipino
    Hi there!

    I have been studying Mandarin for one year, but still, I can't write chinese characters perfectly. Do you have any suggestion? Anything I can do to enhance my skills?

    Xiè xiè nǐ! (thank you!) :)
     

    love chinese

    New Member
    chinese
    Imaging a square box when you write Chinese characters. In the beginning, your imaginery square box could be as big as 3"X3". You'll try to fill the entire box. Eventually your square box could be as small as a 1cmX1cm. 你的工夫就到家了。 祝你好运!!
     

    macrotis

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Hi all,

    I can recognize about a thousand characters but when it comes to reproduce them, I can't remember how to write more than half of them. It depends on the complexity of the character but I make stupid mistakes even in simple characters like 叫 as I usually forget which component comes first (I think, in this case, it is because 叫 and 收 interfere).

    Do you have (or is there) a method to remember the strokes?


    Sorry if this was discussed before but I tried a few searches on the forum with no success. Please give the link if there is a thread for it.
     

    Rallino

    Moderatoúrkos
    Turkish
    Hi all,

    I can recognize about a thousand characters but when it comes to reproduce them, I can't remember how to write more than half of them. It depends on the complexity of the character but I make stupid mistakes even in simple characters like 叫 as I usually forget which component comes first (I think, in this case, it is because 叫 and 收 interfere).

    Do you have (or is there) a method to remember the strokes?


    Sorry if this was discussed before but I tried a few searches on the forum with no success. Please give the link if there is a thread for it.

    Hello Macrotis :)

    I have studied Japanese for two and a half years, and maybe you know Japanese also uses Hanzi, only they call it Kanji. At first, I too, had had trouble memorising how to draw each and every stroke of all those 2000-ish characters, but eventually it came easier.

    I haven't used any softwares to help me, I only used the books and books and, oh! Books! :p

    Here are a few rules that I followed, that I think, might also help you:

    1. Never try to learn a new word AND try to memorise its character at the same time.

    2. I recommend that you do not learn more than 15 characters, a day.

    3. Don't practise the same characters everyday. Practise them randomly, i.e:
    > 1 hour after you've learnt
    > The next day
    > 3 days later
    > Next week the same day
    etc.

    4. Make a list of "easily-confusable characters", such as: 待 - 侍 - 持 -特 - 寺, and study them together.

    5. Write on little piece of papers all the words which you know the Hanzi for, and put them all in a box. Pick one randomly and try to write the Hanzi in 5 seconds. If you can't, put it on "to-be-practised list".

    That's all I've come up with, right now. I hope these can help you, as they helped me.

    Good luck on your studies. :)
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    hi,I saw that, as suggestion or as a guidance on one of chinese university's webpage that provides chinese course for foreigners.
    they were mentioning (also underlining) that on daily basis,foreigners were suggested to learn 6 characters per day.

    is this realistic ?
    and what is the biggest number of your own word count on daily basis you learned?
     

    Yichen

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I think it depends.
    It's hard for me to imagine how difficult it is for a non-native to remember all the strokes of a character.

    "我们热爱学习" The sentence consists of 6 characters. Is the sentence difficult?

    It may be difficult to remember some single characters at first, but then you will find Chinese phrases are easier to remember! For example, It's hard for a student who has learned English for a few months to use abstruse scientific words, but a student who learns Chinese can.

    Let's have a look at the following two sentences:
    "我们热爱学习" (We love study)
    "一年能学好汉语吗?" (Can one learn Chinese well in a year?)

    The two sentences can provide us with many phrases:
    热 (heat)
    热能 (thermal energy)
    热爱 (love, like something very much)
    热学 (thermology )
    汉学 (The study of Chinese people and their Culture)
    汉语 Chinese language
    我们 (we)
    学习 (study,learn)
    爱 (love,like,be fond of, be interested in)
    年 (year)
    好 (good, well, OK, wonderful)
    能 (can, be able to, ability, energy)
    ...

    And we can also talk about some difficult issues:
    我学热能 = I study thermology.
    You see, "thermology" is a word too big for a student who just begins his English study, but it is possible for a Chinese beginner.
     

    Jack12345

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It is according to your aim and plan.
    For example, if you wanted to pass some exams, you could just study as the teacher's advices. If you wanted to speak in Chinese and learn it yourself, you could do more speaking and reading practices.
    And how long will you spend on learning it? 6 characters everyday means 180 characters a month and more than two thousands a year. I think it is very well for anyone who start to learn Chinese. Of course, I think it is difficult too. If I didn't make a mistake, Chinese children would study less than three thousand characters in 6 years.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    so,that is correct that they suggest. probably they experienced it. yes ,two thousand is not bad. because you will understand a newspaper written in chinese by this account of characters.

    and...presumably they also included pronunciation. ok. but yes,regular study is needed.

    thanks for your commenting.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    A natural learning curve (like an epicurve of the coronavirus) follows a bell curve, increasing at a snail's pace before entering an exponential growth phase. It may take several days to learn just one character at first, but after all the basics (e.g., 木 = "wood") are covered, you may acquire several new characters (e.g., 林 "woods", 森 "forest") in an hour.
    1586785697069.png

    foreigners were suggested to learn 6 characters per day. is this realistic ?
    It is overly ambitious for a beginner of course, but it may not be so if you have entered the exponential phase.
     
    Last edited:

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    hi once again @Jack12345 ,

    but the plan is not clear here ,especially if we would like to judge the easeness or difficulty of the plan.
    I have mathematics degree. this was not easy to complete,especially for someone. I do not say that I was studying too hard at my BSc. but there are some instructions about it to make more clear explanation.

    --->> at my BSc degree program I was commonly being known as someone who was more hardworking than medical faculty (medicine) students.
    --->> to me,if we calculate the average amount of study at my BSc, I can say that I was studying less than 2 hours on daily basis (but average and everyday)
    --->> some days I was doing nothing.
    --->> some days I was studying more than 20 hours in a day.

    ...

    quantities are useful to make more meaningful and&clear explanation.
    so,how much hours on daily basis do we mention or do they imply when it is being suggested "6 caharcters per day"?
     

    Jack12345

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    how much hours on daily basis do we mention or do they imply
    It's hard to say because of the difference of everyone. If you just learned 6 characters, half or one hour was enough. But just to remember characters is not enough to learn language. Perhaps, you would spend more time to read, speak and look up dictionary at the beginning. It's based on yourself.
    And whether you have a teacher or schoolmates to learn it together will also be helpful for you.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    yes, that seems meaningful.
    meanwhile,I do not think that studying on strokes (phonetics of chinese (characters)) were difficult. conversely,I believe or think that is quite entertaning :)
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    hi,

    it is being said that 2.000 characters would be enough to understand a newspaper written in mandarin chinese but
    may I ask;
    how many characters do I need to write a patent document in chinese (mandarin)?
    normally this will be filed to CNIPA, but in the current position I can't do this.
    one another thing is that I was previously supposing that in case I know only writing characters (learning them by heart) would be almost nothing if I do not know the correct tonal pronunciation, but now I am suffering by that benefit.
    to me learning just characters is way entertaining. but tonal (pronunciation) is problmeatic and I do not know how to cope with that.
     

    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    it is being said that 2.000 characters would be enough to understand a newspaper written in mandarin Chinese
    It sounds like a tenuous theory to me. You might not take it at face value if you understand Chinese communicate with combinations of characters.

    how many characters do I need to write a patent document in chinese (mandarin)?
    normally this will be filed to CNIPA, but in the current position I can't do this.
    I haven't written a Chinese patent, but whenever I need to write an English patent, I would first go search some websites that provide basic words and syntax structures of relevant sentences. There are probably a few hundred words. So I guess the same can be true of the Chinese patent and you need to master a few hundred phrases to get your job done(I may get you wrong, because I don't know when you say characters, you refer to the compound characters or single character). Remember that compound words matter more--set phrases rather than some stand-alone characters are at play in your writing.

    I'm no expert in pronunciation. I'd leave it to others.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    one another thing is that I was previously supposing that in case I know only writing characters (learning them by heart) would be almost nothing if I do not know the correct tonal pronunciation, but now I am suffering by that benefit.
    to me learning just characters is way entertaining. but tonal (pronunciation) is problmeatic and I do not know how to cope with that.
    I can hardly imagine how can one learn any language without knowing how to pronounce it...
    I only know people who know pronunciations (how to speak) without writings (how to write)...
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I haven't written a Chinese patent, but whenever I need to write an English patent, I would first go search some websites that provide basic words and syntax structures of relevant sentences. There are probably a few hundred words. So I guess the same can be true of the Chinese patent and you need to master a few hundred phrases to get your job done(I may get you wrong, because I don't know when you say characters, you refer to the compound characters or single character). Remember that compound words matter more--set phrases rather than some stand-alone characters are at play in your writing.

    I'm no expert in pronunciation
    I already wrote in english and it passed first controls.(Now it is in ISR phase) (In fact, I have a seqeunce of applications or I will)
    but china is very crowded so it might be effective to select CNIPA as entry country in the national phase of ePCT , thus I may consider even the use of translators but ePCT procedures might require more money. Just applications are also expensive and applications do not guarantee to be beholder of patents.

    but in learning chinese language or in learning any langugae;

    I think the plan is also effective. Although I prefer or tend to prefer working very hard in general, somethings are being well ordered obstacles/problems. Anyway, some of those problems will probably be achievements or I hope so. And I will eventually have to learn chinese. Or I feel so. Because patenting is important to me and this generally require high security in protection of that patentable product .
    It sounds like a tenuous theory to me. You might not take it at face value if you understand Chinese communicate with combinations of characters.

    unfortunately I have not recognized this theory maybe this does not fall inside the scope of physics + mathematics (+Engineering).
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    can hardly imagine how can one learn any language without knowing how to pronounce it...
    yes it is hard,because it might be either irrational or illogical. but possible. I think many indian people do not know how to pronunciate english well.

    I only know people who know pronunciations (how to speak) without writings (how to write)...
    presumably these are original chinese people (or chinese in common)
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Hi, IssacDMQ! People often say 1500-3000 to be able to understand most basic texts (newspapers, etc). In Chinese primary schools, children learn approximately 2500 characters.
    Let's see what Chinese people say though...
     

    Huanhuan04

    New Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    Hello everyone!

    I am very interested in learning Chinese. However, I don't want to just start off with the grammar and learning all the rules of the language. First, I would like to become familiar with writing and pronouncing many of the symbols of Chinese.

    What I am looking for is a website that provides, for example, one new Chinese word per day, with the symbol and how to say it. Preferably, I would like an animated picture of how to write the symbol (stroke order).

    If anyone knows about a site like this, it would be greatly appreciated! I very much want to learn this amazing language!

    Stroke order is quite a challenge thing even for Chinese students because the official guide has been changed twice or three times since 1980. I would recommend to follow up with the common rules and check out some other special ones.

    You can also use the online website to check the stoke order. It's in mandarin only.
    汉字笔顺规则口诀 - 笔顺网
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I'm a beginner. I want to know how many Chinese characters should I know in order to be fluent?
    as far as I know,you will be able to understand a newspaper which was written in chinese if you learn 2000 characters.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    you will be able to understand a newspaper which was written in chinese if you learn 2000 characters.
    The problem with this type of statistics, though, is that, whilst perhaps comforting, they may somewhat misleading.

    Consider the following claims, which I found randomly on the internet:

    With 2,500 characters you can read 97.97 % of everyday written language.
    With 3,500 characters you can read up to 99.48 %, which means pretty much everything!
    It’s even more comforting to know that with only 900 characters, you can actually read 90% of a newspaper!

    I won't mention the source, since it is not the numbers themselves that are important, but the accompanying claims.

    What does it mean that you can read 97.97% of everyday written language with 2,500 characters? Well... it means that you will encounter one unknown character every for 50 you read. With 3,500 characters, this goes down to one in every 200. Not bad!

    However, it is misleading to claim that “with only 900 characters, you can actually read 90% of a newspaper!” Well... by definition, news is novel, so you won't have much context to go on, and even if you can read 90% of the words in it, I'll warrant that you won't get much of the article, since much of the news content will be expressed in the 10% of unfamiliar words.

    At any rate, in order to read a Chinese newspaper comfortably, I suspect 3,500 characters is closer to the mark than 2,000.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    The problem with this type of statistics, though, is that, whilst perhaps comforting, they may somewhat misleading.

    Consider the following claims, which I found randomly on the internet:



    I won't mention the source, since it is not the numbers themselves that are important, but the accompanying claims.

    What does it mean that you can read 97.97% of everyday written language with 2,500 characters? Well... it means that you will encounter one unknown character every for 50 you read. With 3,500 characters, this goes down to one in every 200. Not bad!

    However, it is misleading to claim that “with only 900 characters, you can actually read 90% of a newspaper!” Well... by definition, news is novel, so you won't have much context to go on, and even if you can read 90% of the words in it, I'll warrant that you won't get much of the article, since much of the news content will be expressed in the 10% of unfamiliar words.

    At any rate, in order to read a Chinese newspaper comfortably, I suspect 3,500 characters is closer to the mark than 2,000.
    hi,:) :) :)
    this text does not seem like it had been written randomly. presumably you have experienced the content.
    All in all ,although I have no profession in cninese, I am currently educationalist at the same time with concentrating on scientific contexts.
    so,what I say is that in spite of high potentiality for this quotation to be valid and correct, I think encouragement will worth in learning anything. Therefore, I only preferred to write positive (encouraging) context .

    Thanks for your contribution
    Regards,
    rarabara
     

    Yichen

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Usually, characters are different from phrases in Chinese. I have no idea how many characters I learned in my primary school years. Maybe the character lists on those textbooks can tell me. To be frank, seldom would a Chinese student above junior high school spend time learning Chinese characters specifically. I am not too sure about how many characters are needed to make up the vocabulary a person needs in order to meet his/her daily life or professional work requirements.
     

    Staarkali

    Senior Member
    Hi all,


    The problem with this type of statistics, though, is that, whilst perhaps comforting, they may somewhat misleading.
    [...]
    However, it is misleading to claim that “with only 900 characters, you can actually read 90% of a newspaper!” Well... by definition, news is novel, so you won't have much context to go on, and even if you can read 90% of the words in it, I'll warrant that you won't get much of the article, since much of the news content will be expressed in the 10% of unfamiliar words.
    I am fluent in Chinese and I cannot but agree with radagasty. Even in a text where you are missing only one characters, you may not fully grasp the core meaning, let alone the subtleties.

    At any rate, in order to read a Chinese newspaper comfortably, I suspect 3,500 characters is closer to the mark than 2,000.
    Agreed again : in order to be fully at ease with the newspaper or books for general audience, i'll say at least 3k - 3.5k. Less than that and it will be common not to full grasp the meaning.

    My two cents.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    AE (US English)
    .
    I'm a beginner. I want to know how many Chinese characters should I know in order to be fluent?
    Note the difference between Chinese characters and words. Each character is 1 syllable. But 80% of Chinese words are 2-syllable, not 1 syllable. Your goal is learning words (and sentences and grammar), not syllables.

    You may know a character that is used in 50 different words, but you only know 4 of those words. Does reading a newspaper require knowing the most common 3000 characters, or the most common 3000 words?
     

    twenty6

    Senior Member
    English - U.S., Chinese - Mandarin
    With 3000 characters you probably won't be able to understand newspaper articles, I'd say somewhere around 4-5000 (3000 would be more suited for something like an elementary school history textbook or something).

    3000 words is another matter; with that you probably will be able to read most (if not all) of a newspaper article, it all depends on the word choice of the author.

    Oftentimes "characters" and "words" are confused and used interchangeably, which makes it a lot more confusing.

    By my estimates, only around 2000 words are required for day-to-day life in China (even less if you're an introvert and avoid social encounters). If you learn 10-20 ish words a week (which is very easy, from my experiences), and practice a bit every day, you can learn enough to pass the HSK 4/5 tests in 3-5 years, which are the general authority on one's Chinese skill. If you want to be an intellectual, I'd say around 4000 words.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    You may know a character that is used in 50 different words, but you only know 4 of those words. Does reading a newspaper require knowing the most common 3000 characters, or the most common 3000 words?

    Certainly 3,000 characters. Knowledge of 3,000 words would be nowhere near enough to be able to read a newspaper. It has been estimated that native speakers of English know on average 40,000 words, depending on their level of education, and I think a similar figure would apply for Chinese.

    It has been estimated that, in modern Chinese society, a total of around 7,000 characters are in use, although, depending on their level of education, most people might perhaps know only 5,000.

    With 3000 characters you probably won't be able to understand newspaper articles, I'd say somewhere around 4-5000 (3000 would be more suited for something like an elementary school history textbook or something).

    3000 words is another matter; with that you probably will be able to read most (if not all) of a newspaper article, it all depends on the word choice of the author.

    I think this is altogether incorrect. Surely, logic suggests that one should know more words than characters. After all, for the most part, every character itself constitutes a word, apart from a very few words like 蜘蛛 or 蝴蝶, where the two parts of the word don't have any independent meaning.
     
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